Thai boxing on trial following the death of a 13-year-old fighter
The boy was knocked out during a charity fight, dying two days later from a brain haemorrhage. Thai boxing is an integral part of the country’s history and society. Poor boys start fighting before they are ten to support their family. For missionary, “Becoming a champion means ‘money’.”
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Thais are still under in shock after the death of Anucha Thasako (picture 2), a 13-year-old practitioner of Thai boxing (Muay Thai), from brain haemorrhage suffered during a fight.
Reacting to the case, Thai authorities have promised to ban child boxing. For Fr Adriano Pelosin (PIME), the ancient martial art is now only about money.
Anucha died from injuries sustained during a charity fight in Wat Khlong Mon, Samut Prakan province (south of Bangkok).
The boy, who fought under the name of Petmongkol Sor Wilaithong, was pitted against a 14-year-old, Put Lukromklao, known as Fahmai Wor Sudprasert.
Hit by a fist in the third round, the boy fell and hit his head hard. He was taken immediately to Bangchak Hospital and later moved to Samutprakarn Hospital where he died. The young boxer had been in 170 fights since the age of eight.
After his death, Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat ordered a review to the Boxing Act, which regulates the sport. The ministry yesterday received a draft amendment from the National Legislative Assembly. The minister vowed to “forward it to the cabinet for consideration as quickly as possible”.
Under the current legislation, there are no age limit for fighters. All it says is that fighters under 15 must be registered and fight organisers must sign a statement in which they indicate what protection they provide. However, the law does say what protection is required.
If approved, the amendment would ban children 12 and under and fighters aged 12 to 15 will be required to wear protective gear, especially head guards.
Well rooted in Thai history and culture, Muay Thai is the most popular sport in the country and many athletes start fighting at a young age, seeking fame and fortune. Defined as the art or science of the “eight limbs”, it combines the use of fists, elbows, knees, and shins.
Having young boys before the age of ten involved, often without headgear, has nevertheless sparked criticism. Usually, fighters come from poor families who send boys to fight with a lot of money riding on bets.
PIME missionary and superior of the Thai Missionary Society, Fr Adriano Pelosin, 72, notes that parents send “seven- or eight-year-old boys to training schools”.
For the missionary, who is parish priest at St Mark’s Catholic Church in Pathum Thani, "the boys are subjected to harsh discipline, which is rare in Thai culture".
In his view, nowadays Thai boxing has little to do with sport. "Everything is about winning and earning money from gambling. Becoming a champion means 'money'."